New Berlin residents approve 2.3 percent levy increase
District must improve morale of teachers
New Berlin - A nearly $46.5 million property tax levy that is a 2.65 percent increase over last year was approved by residents at the sometimes bumpy New Berlin School District annual meeting Monday.
The levy increase was nearly dollar for dollar because of a loss of state aid, Roger Dickson, chief finance and operations officer, said. The levy will support a 2012-13 school budget of nearly $64.6 million.
Beyond the dollars, a recurring theme was that the schools have to heal and morale restored after the bruising teachers and others took as Act 10 stripped public employee unions of most of their bargaining power. Reviving teacher morale makes good sense for the classroom and good economic sense, said resident Clare Marsh, who called for a commitment be made to creating a good working environment.
"These folks are important and you know it," she almost scolded the School Board. Not only that, the districts invests too many tax dollars into teacher development for them to leave for districts where they feel more appreciated, she said. New Berlin must not be a "farm" system for other school districts, Marsh said.
Fifty-seven teachers either retired or left, some because they were unhappy at the end of the last school year. Resident Scott Jentsch said their losses are being felt.
"They hit hard," he said.
Superintendent Joe Garza said the schools will survey teachers soon to pinpoint trouble spots. Then efforts at rebuilding morale can be more effective, he said.
But resident Janie McGinty didn't think it should be that hard. The board should never again let the teachers be ridiculed the way they were at a meeting last year when the board considered the employee handbook, she said.
"You let them be ridiculed after they spent all day with our kids," McGinty said.
She also said they simply need to know that their efforts are appreciated.
The district will soon be able to show its appreciation in paychecks as it develops its merit pay standards, School Board member John Kegel said.
The 2012-13 school budget contains no staff or program cuts, Garza said.
But resident Tim Buban wasn't so sure. He said he understands that physical education is held only twice a week at the elementary schools instead of three times a week as it was last year.
Healthy bodies are extremely important not only to today's elementary school children who might be headed for diabetes by the time they're 30, but for taxpayers, too, Buban said. It has been estimated that Wisconsin could save $12 billion in reduced health care costs if its residents lost weight, he said. Likewise, the Pentagon is worried about being able to find enough people who can pass a physical, he said.
Garza could not confirm a reduction in elementary physical education.
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